It's not a big secret that the employment situation in the U.S. has gotten considerably better since the end of the recession.
In fact, the national unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of 10% in October 2009 to 6.7%. However, there are some areas of the country that are falling behind when it comes to job creation and growing wages for workers. Here are five states (or territories) that are not the greatest to be in if you're looking for a job right now.
1. Arkansas -- Despite the fact that the average wage has improved by 2.4% over the past year, the number of jobs in Arkansas has actually fallen by 0.6% over the past year at a time when most of the country is successfully creating jobs. This is somewhat surprising when you consider some of the companies based in the state, such as Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in the world. Arkansas also has the second lowest median household income in the country, at $39,806.
2. New Mexico -- Even though New Mexico actually posted a slight year-over-year increase of 0.4% in the number of jobs in the state, it was the only one of the 50 states that saw its average wage drop over the past year. The state is seeing a contraction in the number of manufacturing jobs, as well as in the usually high-demand education and health care industries, meaning workers could be willing to accept lower wages in order to keep their jobs.
3. U.S. Virgin Islands -- Not a very populated part of the United States, this past year has been particularly rough on the Virgin Islands, which not only saw its job market contract by 3%, but saw the average wage for workers drop by an alarming 13.8%. The economy of the Virgin Islands consists of mainly tourism, with a sizable manufacturing presence in the form of rum distilling. However, the islands' once thriving construction industry is contracting and leaving many residents without work. The current unemployment rate in the Virgin Islands is higher than in any of the 50 states, at 11.2%.
4. Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico lost 1.1% of its jobs over the past year. Even though the territory's average wage increased by 1%, it still pays the lowest average weekly wage (by far) in the U.S., at just $503. Puerto Rico also has a cost of living that is higher than in much of the 50 states, mainly because of high housing costs. The dismal job market has caused many Puerto Ricans to leave for the mainland, with a relatively high rate of 54,000 migrants annually.
5. West Virginia -- West Virginia's job market contracted just slightly this year, but when combined with its dismal 0.6% wage growth (3rd worst of the 50 states), it's simply not one of the better job markets in the country right now. West Virginia also has the least-educated workforce in the country (which explains the low wages), with just 17.3% of the population possessing a bachelor's degree or higher.
Although these are the worst job markets in the U.S. on paper, bear in mind that this is not the case among all industries and all parts of these states. For example, in New Mexico, there is still strong job growth in the Albuquerque metropolitan are. West Virginia has a thriving coal industry and is actually the highest interstate electricity exporter in the nation. However, as far as overall job creation and higher wages are concerned, job seekers would be better off somewhere like North Dakota, whose job market grew 3.2% last year, or Oklahoma, where wages are growing 3.5% annually.
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